In the early 1990s, problems surfaced with the present Cathedral pipe organ, which could not be remedied under warranty due to the bankruptcy and closing of the Möller Organ Company just a few years after the installation of the organ. The largest pipes in the facade were replaced in the late 1990s by Fr. Patrick Cullen and the late Calvert Shenk. A short time later, during the tenure of Fr. Richard Donohoe as Rector, and under the leadership of Stephan Calvert (the Cathedral’s director of music) an Organ Fund was begun in anticipation of rebuilding the Moller instrument. A capital campaign was planned for 2013, only to be delayed by the Cathedral’s exterior renovation, a project discovered to be of greater urgency and obviously greater scope.
After the renovation’s completion in 2015, Fr. Kevin Bazzel, Rector at the time, asked that the Cathedral organ be the next item addressed, due to its ever-greater disrepair (even failing during a Christmas Eve Mass!). Proposals for a rebuild were solicited from some of the country’s best organ builders working in the “American Classic” style of the present instrument, and a study trip of their representative work was made. While all builders and proposals were thorough and excellent, each questioned whether a rebuild would fully address the deficiencies of the Moller (outlined on its page here).
Around this time, we observed the passing of long-time parishioner Anna Catharine Grace, long known for her generosity toward liturgical and musical endeavors in the Diocese of Birmingham (such as the eponymous Grace Fund for Music and Liturgy, and the underwriting of the liturgical books of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, not to mention the donation of pipe organs and other instruments to parishes). Mrs. Grace was no less generous with our Cathedral parish, leaving her estate to secure the future of the Cathedral sacred music program, especially through the funding of the organ. In consultation with Fr. Bryan Jerabek, Rector, and the Cathedral finance council, proposals were solicited for a new instrument of eclectic design and mechanical (or “tracker”) action. After years of consultation with architects, organbuilders, organists around the world, and with the blessing of Bishop Robert J. Baker, in 2019 the Cathedral signed a contract for Opus 164 of the Noack Organ Company, a three-manual instrument of 75 ranks of pipes, to be named the Anna Catharine Grace Memorial Pipe Organ.
The Anna Catharine Grace Memorial Pipe Organ, Noack Organ Company Op. 164, 2021
This organ will reuse a number of pipes from the previous Moller instrument, integrating them into an eclectic* instrument of French Classical and Symphonic influences well-suited to the Cathedral’s fine acoustic and the strengths of our music apostolate. It will be an instrument equally at home in the liturgy as it is in concert; one that preserves (and enriches) many of the heroic aspects of the Moller instrument while substantially increasing quieter options for accompaniment of singers and choir. The Noack organ will be installed by Summer of 2021.
While Mrs. Grace’s gift has secured just over 60% of the total cost of the project (removing the present organ, making the necessary structural and HVAC preparations for the new instrument, and building the Noack organ), donations are still urgently needed to cover the remaining portion of the contract price and related contracting needs. For more information, please contact the the Director of Music, Mr. Bruce Ludwick, Jr., at Ludwick@stpaulsbhm.org or (205) 251-1279 ×107. A donation to a project such as this is a perfect way to give glory to God and memorialize or pay tribute to a loved one, helping their memory “sing on” for years to come. You may donate in person, via cash or check, or by visiting this link to WeShare, the giving portal for parishioners and regular contributors. We also offer the PayPal button option (at the bottom of this page) for your convenience. Thank you for your generous stewardship of this key part of the future of the music apostolate at the Cathedral of Saint Paul.
Please note that since the Anna Catharine Grace Memorial Pipe Organ project is part of our existing diocesan-approved Capital Campaign, all the funds you donate will go toward the new instrument and its installation; this collection is not subject to ordinary diocesan taxation like the regular offertory collections.
(*In organ building parlance, “eclectic” is a positive term meaning that an instrument is able to authoritatively play organ music of all or most stylistic periods effectively. This is a key need at the Cathedral, as organ and choral music from many national schools is performed on any given week. At the same time, the organ’s French roots will be unique in the Southeast and particularly well-suited to the Cathedral’s “old world” acoustics.)